conjunctivitis or "pink eye"Pink eye is one of the most common eye conditions in children. It can spread easily in schools and day care centers. September is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, and with kids going back to school, the time is right to learn about pink eye and how to prevent it.

What is pink eye?

Pink eye is an inflammation of the membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes. This membrane is called the “conjunctiva,” and the medical term for pink eye is “conjunctivitis.”

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

  • Eye that looks red or pink – Pink eye can happen in one or both eyes.
  • Eye discharge
  • Burning or itching – It might feel like there is something in the eye.

What causes pink eye?

Infection with a virus is the most common cause. A bacterial infection can also cause pink eye, and some people get pink eye that is related to allergies. When allergies cause it, the condition is called allergic conjunctivitis.

Is pink eye contagious?

Yes. Pink eye caused by a viral or bacterial infection is highly contagious (spreads easily from person to person). You can get pink eye or spread it by:

  • Not washing your hands often
  • Touching your eyes a lot
  • Reusing towels or tissues
  • Sharing makeup or using old makeup
  • Not cleaning contact lenses correctly

Although pink eye is more common in children, adults can also get it. If your child has pink eye, wash your hands often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Ask your child’s doctor about other ways to keep the infection from spreading to other family members.

Pink eye that is related to allergies (allergic conjunctivitis) is not contagious.

eye dropsHow is pink eye treated?

Pink eye that is caused by a virus will get better on its own in a week or two. If a bacterial infection is the cause, a doctor can prescribe antibiotic eye drops.

To relieve eye irritation, you can use warm compresses several times a day. Soak a clean washcloth in warm water and wring it out. Put it on the affected eye for several minutes. Use a fresh washcloth every time. If only one eye is infected, don’t let the washcloth touch the other eye. That can spread the infection.

Non-medicated eye drops can also help relieve pink eye symptoms. Ask your child’s eye doctor or pediatrician which drops are best.

What if my child wears contacts?

If you think your child has pink eye, talk to a doctor. People who wear contacts can get more serious eye conditions that cause similar symptoms.

If the condition is pink eye, your child might need to stop wearing contacts until it is gone. Sterilize your lenses before wearing them again, or use a fresh pair of disposable contacts.

I think my child has pink eye. What should I do?

Concerned that your child might have pink eye? Every Oregon Eye Specialists clinic has doctors who treat children. Contact us or call 503-935-5580. With 10 convenient locations one of our clinics is always nearby — for your child’s health and your peace of mind.

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